Global Police Arrest Thousands in Fraud Crackdown

Interpol has hailed a two-month anti-fraud operation that saw thousands of suspects arrested and tens of millions of dollars intercepted.

Operation First Light 2022 took place from March-May this year, with 76 countries taking part in the crackdown on email and phone-based fraud.

As part of the operation, police raided 1770 locations including call centers used in phone scams, and arrested at least 2000 “operators,” as well as suspected fraudsters and money launderers.

They identified a further 3000 suspects, froze 4000 bank accounts and intercepted $50m in illicit funds, according to Interpol.

Romance scams and email-based fraud were among the key cybercrime types police focused on. Romance fraud led to $956m in losses last year, according to the FBI.

Among the successes were the arrest of eight individuals in Singapore on suspicion of running a Ponzi scheme. A Chinese national wanted in connection with a Ponzi scheme that defrauded 24,000 victims out of €34m ($35m) was also caught in Papua New Guinea.

Separately, Singapore police rescued a teenage victim who had been tricked into pretending to be kidnapped. He’s said to have sent videos of himself with fake wounds to his parents in a bid to elicit a €1.5m ($1.6m) ransom.

“Telecom and BEC fraud are sources of serious concern for many countries and have a hugely damaging effect on economies, businesses and communities,” argued Rory Corcoran, the director of Interpol’s Financial Crime and Anti-Corruption Centre (IFCACC).

“The international nature of these crimes can only be addressed successfully by law enforcement working together beyond borders, which is why Interpol is critical to providing police the world over with a coordinated tactical response.”

In related news, more than half (52%) of employees have admitted to falling for a BEC scam over the past year, where a cyber-criminal impersonated a senior executive.

That figure’s up from 41% in 2020, according to Tessian. Around a quarter (26%) fell for a phishing scam at work in the past 12 months.

Some experts also questioned whether the police crackdown would have the long-term effect needed to impact financial cybercrime.

“The onus has to be on financial institutions doing their part in being proactive rather than relying on Interpol’s reactive arrests, and making sure that fraudulent payments are not only detected but prevented in real time, using new techniques and tools like machine learning in order to keep up with new methods used by fraudsters,” argued Armen Najarian, chief identity officer at Outseer.

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